By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON – On any checklist made a year ago of critical priorities, city officials said that progress on two long-standing issues were – and had been for years – at the top of the list.
While not willing to check off the Riverside Hospital project as complete just yet, City Administrator Jim Wagner said that he was encouraged by recent discussions between the city, Henry Ford Health System and developers ready to transform the long-dormant Riverside into an active concern after so many years of vacancy.
“We’re hopeful to see more plans in the future,” Wagner said. Demolition and cleanup work began last year after agreements cleared the way for a medical mall at the location.
By the time Mayor Kyle Stack delivers the annual State of the City address – hosted by the Rotary Club of Trenton and tentatively scheduled for March – Wagner said one of the city’s other long-standing problems may have similar progress to report.
“The biggest issue is Detroit Steel,” Wagner said of the 276-acre complex that operated as McClouth Steel. The former factory has struggled to find interest let alone prospects, but Wagner said that recent discussions may represent the beginnings of a plan. Last week the city applied for an Environmental Protection Agency site assessment, which would allow a potential developer to have some due diligence for consideration. Wagner said he was encouraged to join the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Wayne County, the Detroit Chamber of Commerce “all at the table at the same time” with regards the property.
“I’m optimistic that something can take place there,” Wagner said. “It’s not going to be residential,” but the strategies are to rebuild a municipal foundation through projects large and small, industry or independent retailers.
“If Riverside and Detroit Steel work, downtown benefits,” Wagner said. The outlook for Jefferson Avenue businesses continues to improve, he said. The landmark former A&W is expected to open this spring as Elizabeth Perk, a coffee shop at the entrance to Elizabeth Park. Add to that the construction on Van Horn Road of Tractor Supply – a 20,000-square-foot building – and last month’s sale of a downtown parcel still to be developed, and Wagner said the next 12 months should bring more of the same.
“Things are starting to turn,” Wagner said. “The glue is starting to take effect. We’re laying a good foundation for the economy to improve and things getting done.”
For information on the State of the City address,
contact city hall at 734-675-6500.
(James Mitchell can be reached at [email protected].)